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Rural Texas Struggles Amid Slower Recovery From Power Crisis

 The U.S. and Texas flags fly in front of high voltage transmission towers on Feb. 21, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The U.S. and Texas flags fly in front of high voltage transmission towers on Feb. 21, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In Texas, abouta third of peopleare still having issues with water service after a freezing cold snap brought the state to a grinding halt last week.

Many parts of Texas remain under boil water notices due to widespread power outages that swept the state. On Sunday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters around 30,000 people were still without power. 

The wait to get electricity back could last even longer for Texans living in rural, wooded areas where trees have downed power lines. Officials are estimating it could take up to three more weeks. 

InNacogdoches, a small city in eastern Texas in the thick of the Piney Woods forest, city manager Mario Canizares says it could be “several more days” before everyone in the community has their power back. 

“In some more heavily wooded areas where trees have fallen and has knocked down electrical systems, [they] just can’t get to them or it just requires more work,” he says. “So they’re tackling those areas that they can restore quickly, then rediverting their efforts to some of those more difficult areas.”

Canizares says an ice storm on Wednesday further compounded the area’s infrastructure issues. 

“Trees and power lines just do not go well together,” he says. “And so it’s just been a very difficult situation to repair.”

Catie Munguia is a social worker living inNacogdoches. She lost power from last Monday until Saturday. 

During that ice storm, “it felt like being in a war zone,” Munguia says. Trees coated in ice were falling all around their neighborhood, crushing cars and damaging homes. 

“There’s no electricity at this point, so everything is just silent, but you would just hear this crashing of branches falling,” she says. “And I’m talking, I mean, just every five seconds, probably you hear another crack and then a boom as it hits the ground and a crack and a boom of these massive branches falling all around our neighborhoods.” 

Residents couldn’t really get a sense of the damage until this weekend, when everything started to thaw out, Munguia says. That’s when her parents discovered a branch that had fallen on top of their house had penetrated the roof.

“We tried to pull it down with ropes and it was frozen into the ice. There were about five inches of solid ice on the roof, so we couldn’t get it out,” she says. “[We] had to wait several days before we could do anything about it.” 

Munguia is going back to work on Monday, checking in on her clients who are residents in the community, many of whom live in trailers or other vulnerable structures. 

“In trailers, there’s not a lot of insulation of pipes, so I’m sure there’s been a lot of busted pipes. A lot of those homes already were in pretty poor conditions,” she says. “A lot of folks that I work with have holes in their floor, holes in their roofs, missing windows, missing doors, so they were extremely vulnerable to the cold.” 

As the community works to fix the damage from the storm and get power and water restored to all residents, Munguia says they also have an emotional recovery ahead of them. 

“When you are in a situation where you feel like you can’t do anything to protect yourself or the people that you love, that’s traumatic, and that’s what all of us here have been living through,” she says. “But we just have to get up and keep moving, keep walking forward because there’s kind of no other choice.”

Cristina Kim produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.